I quoted illustrator Howard Pyle in an earlier post, "You can't create an illustration without a story. Pictorial art should represent some point of view that carries over the whole significance of a situation. It should convey an image of the meaning of the text."
My general painting concept now has a story to interpret more specifically. The Story went through eight drafts. I am thankful for those who helped me write the story. I heeded their suggestions and the story began to breathe. I am sure they would not say it is perfect at this point, but it is so much better because of their input.
Lois Walfrid Johnson (http://www.lwjbooks.com) gave me several hours of her time coaching me on story and character building. She loaned me her best reference books on Viking history and made helpful suggestions along the way. Please consider reading her Viking Quest Series. They are full of adventure and Viking history - excellent for children and adults. My long time friend and writer, Patrick Day (http://pyramidpublishers.com) gave me his careful suggestions and corrections. DuWayne and Jackie Paul contributed their expert comments on the story and grammar. I appreciate "word" people. I wish they could follow me around and clean up the things I write. In the end we compliment each other. I am the picture guy and they keep a tight rein on words.
A special thanks to my wife, Ellen, who helped me to get the story rolling in the right direction as a reader and with constructive comments.
The Viking Age 793-1066 A.D.
THE STORY: A VIKING FAMILY PORTRAIT IN 1048
IT WAS THE YEAR 1048 in western Norway. The trumpet sound of migrating swans echoed across the waters of Hardangerfjord. The morning mist veiled the mountain landscape. A cool breeze lifted the fragrance of spring blossoms.
Brita gathered her children for a last look at their father until he returned. Anders turned to face them, but he seemed to find no words to respond to the sad expression of his wife and children. He awkwardly turned his attention and loaded his sea trunk on board the Sommar Bris, the Viking ship he would command for the next six months on the north seas.
Brita’s husband, Anders, had been a master of his own ship in her father’s fleet for five years. He was a respected and trusted seaman by his crew. This would be his last of many trading expeditions to Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, until the growing-up years of his children were over.
Their two sons, six-year-old Peter and four-year-old Jonas, were feeling anxious on the dawn of their father’s departure, but momentarily were distracted by the family dog, and their father’s weapons lying at their feet. Seven-year-old Greta pressed close to her mother for comfort as she watched her father trek supplies down to the ship. Brita understood her daughter. She too had experienced the same feelings as a child, on the advent of her father’s voyages.
Greta’s name means pearl, an endearing nickname her father had given her. She loved the stories of her Nordic heritage told by the elders of her community and by her mother and father. She loved words and the opportunity they gave her to express her thoughts about life and nature.
The boys had already distinguished themselves in the family and community. Peter had strong character and wasn’t easily swayed by his peers. He was an artist at heart and felt the joy and beauty of the craftsmanship he saw in Nordic weavings, woodwork, jewelry, and weapons. He was fascinated by the bold beauty of the Viking longboats and vowed he would one day carve the dragon on a ship’s prow.
Jonas’ blonde hair twisted and turned in rhythm with his busy little hands and feet. He had a gift for encouraging people. He enjoyed scurrying around his community bringing joyful greetings. One day he wanted to be a ship’s master like his father.
At 24, Brita had been married to Anders for 9 years. Her husband won her heart with his kindness. Over the previous years Anders had won her fathers’ admiration and approval with his courage on the high seas.
Brita came from strong stock. Her father was a Viking-age chieftain and her mother’s first born. She had a shrewd sense of her high-risk world and was known for hard work, generosity and kindness. She built these same values into the daily lives of her children.
Brita’s children would not stay children long. Like most boys and girls they would marry by age 15. She made sure they learned how to help milk the cows, make yarn, weave cloth, cook meals, gather berries, repair things, and care for and enjoy one another.
Brita was grateful for Anders’ gifts of beautiful jewelry and bright fabrics, from his last expedition, but she would rather have him home more often. She had a deep concern for Anders’ safety on this next expedition. Sea storms and the risk of trading with Skraelings, the native peoples in Newfoundland, worried her.
She expressed her concerns to her father about dangers Anders would encounter. She wanted Anders to live and have a strong influence in their remaining years at home. The chieftain listened to her concern and remembered her childhood struggles during his frequent absences at sea. For now he needed Anders’ experienced leadership for one more expedition to Iceland, Greenland and Vineland, to fulfill trading obligations he had for skins, furs, and sea-ivory at home. Upon his return he agreed to give him command of a fleet of ships trading closer to home.
In the past, while Anders was on the north seas, Brita managed her household well and worked hard to meet the needs of her family. She often expressed herself with wit and humor. Her children were delighted as she retold stories she had heard from her elders as a child. She encouraged her children to lean to express themselves on any subject; if they didn’t, others would be poorer because of it.
The ship was finally loaded for the long voyage and Brita had too little time to say all she felt as she and Anders’ exchanged farewells. He returned to his men and the ship. She and the children waved as he stepped aboard. He turned, smiled and waved back. As the ship disappeared into the fjord landscape, Brita spoke quietly to herself, “Anders come home safely, I need you. Greta, Peter and Jonas need you.”